Poetry

Maps of States

Terrance Hayes

A map indicating the state of the union may
Yield the statues, static & statutes of grave
White men while a map indicating disrepair may
Yield colorful groundbreakers uprooting graves.

A map indicating the state of your affairs may
Include only the business of your accountant
If you are able to steer clear of laissez-­faire—may-­
Be let’s not take that road down the mountain.

A map indicating states of arousal may
Also be a map few people find useful
Though the people who feel this way may
Also be people in a state of denial.

A map indicating a state of inertia may
Be indistinguishable from a map
Indicating a state of flux. The route may
Lead you in circles around the map.

A map indicating a state-­of-­the-­art May-­
Bach may feature what could be mistaken
For peace signs or tiny wheels making
Their way across a larger map that may

Indicate a state of grace under fire or may
Indicate a state of emergency exit, a route
Which may divide at forks in the road or may
Multiply at crossroads leading you out

Into a light so bright & constant you may
Have to wear a cap & shades indoors
Like brothers who know as much about May-­
Bachs as Bach pursuing cultural studies or

The mother tongue of New York, they may
Wear peace signs on their shoulders
Traveling states of aggression that may
Actually be states of preservation or

Distress. A map indicating a state of war may
Actually be a map indicating a state
Of weariness. Let your eyes fall where they may
On the map indicating your state.

You may wander the states of wonder indicated
By the many unmarked areas along the map.
Almost anything you see is a map in some way.
Let your eyes fall where they may on the maps.

Terrance Hayes is the author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin and To Float In the Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight. He is a professor of English at New York University.
Originally published:
May 19, 2021

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